Sunday, 17 April 2005

Iraq's fake hostage crisis

Monday’s New York Times reports that the Shiite hostage situation in Madaen didn’t really exist, despite yesterday’s reports of upwards of 150 captives. Truly bizarre.


Both Stephen Karlson and Reihan Salam are less-than-impressed with Amtrak’s latest fiasco: the discovery that the Acela high-speed train’s brakes aren’t up to snuff. Quoth Salam:

Rather than purchase a proven Swedish high-speed train, the X2000 tilt-train, designed to accommodate older, not-quite-straight tracks like those found in the northeastern corridor (and unlike the very straight railtrack used by the TGV and other high-speed lines overseas), Amtrak decided to build an entirely new model at vastly greater expense that—get this—experienced serious mechanical failures from the very start. For the sake of building a much slower fitfully tilting version of the TGV, a non-tilting train, they built a train that, remarkably and at the most inconvenient moments, failed to tilt. Had they gone with the X2000, they would’ve had an excellent high-speed train in 1998. This is stupidity on a colossal scale.

It’s rather clear that the choice of the Bombardier design had more to do with the byzantine financial structure of the deal than technical merit. Not surprisingly, this decision has come back to bite Amtrak in the ass.

As this Boston Globe piece points out, this latest round of bad news did not come at a good time for Amtrak, with many in Congress already highly skeptical of passenger rail and President Bush pushing for rail service to be devolved to the states.

…but you just can't kill the beast

It turns out that the only folks abusing Terri Schiavo were politicians, according to Florida investigators:

The agency completed nine reports of abuse accusations made from 2001 to 2004, including neglect of hygiene, denial of dental care, poisoning and physical harm. The accusations, which have been widely reported, focus on Michael Schiavo, the husband of Terri. Ms. Schiavo died on March 31, nearly two weeks after her feeding tube was removed.

The names of many accusers have been blacked out in the documents, but the name of Ms. Schiavo’s father, Robert Schindler, appears on one.

And via Stephen Bainbridge comes word that the Democrats will be bringing up Terri Schiavo again during at least the next two election cycles:

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said Friday that his party would wield the Terri Schiavo case against Republicans in the 2006 and 2008 elections, but for now needed to stay focused battling President Bush on Social Security.

“We’re going to use Terri Schiavo later on,” Dean said of the brain-damaged Floridian who died last month after her feeding tube was removed amid a swarm of political controversy.

I can hardly wait…